11/24/09 — Stores prep for holiday shoppers

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Stores prep for holiday shoppers

By Catharin Shepard
Published in News on November 24, 2009 1:46 PM

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Sarah Child, left, and Alie Pettigrew stock the shelves at Books-A-Million with Christmas books and accessories this morning in preparation for the holiday season.

Wayne area retailers are preparing their stores and employees for this week's Black Friday sales rush, the unofficial start of the busy holiday shopping season.

Brandi Worth, manager of Buddy's Jewelry in Mount Olive said she is looking forward to the holiday sales season, but not expecting a tremendous increase in profits compared to last year's sales.

"I'm looking for it to be hopefully a little bit better than last year, with some improvements," she said.

The company recently had a lot of sales traffic during its anniversary sale and the business is already moving into the end of the year sales increase. The store hired two seasonal workers just a few weeks ago to prepare for the busy season, Mrs. Worth said.

"We need a good Christmas season. We're already decorated for Christmas, ready to go. We'll be doing a lot of mail-outs, advertising quite a bit. I think we're ahead of the game," she said.

Books-A-Million on Berkeley Boulevard has also already hired several new employees as holiday help, and plans to hire more in coming weeks to help with the increase in business around Christmas, manager Chris Estes said. However, actual revenue might be down somewhat from last year's holiday sales, he predicted.

"I honestly don't think it's going to be as much this year, but I'm hopeful," Estes said.

But the business' position as the only bookstore in Goldsboro puts Books-A-Million in a unique position, and the company is doing well overall, he said.

"We're not doing poorly as a company. We've been doing over our expected salary every day. I'm not worried about our sales," Estes said.

The Christmas season is traditionally the big selling period for Elite Fashions on West Walnut Street in downtown Goldsboro, with customers returning just for the special holiday items. So far, Elite Fashions is doing well this year, owner Evelyn Johnson said.

"A lot of our customers just come in and buy seasonally and at Christmas time really, so we hope for a good season," she said.

Although the store is most popular with locals, the business launched a sales Web site three years ago and today has expanded their offerings online.

"Our Web store has been good for us. We have a lot of out of state sales, we even get sales from Canada, England. It's amazing," Mrs. Johnson said.

The store employs five people and doesn't need to hire more, but will be giving existing employees more hours during the busy season.

Employment Security Commission Manager Bill Pate of the Job Link Center in Goldsboro said that the economic climate last year has carried over into the seasonal hiring for this year. Stores are probably not hiring as many people for seasonal help as they have in the past, Pate said.

"A lot of stores do their own hiring anyway, so we don't particularly get a lot of listings," he said.

There are some businesses, mostly chain retail companies like Sears, Kmart and TJ Maxx that are hiring seasonal employees, but it will probably not be enough to make a dent in rising unemployment figures.

New unemployment numbers for Wayne County are expected to be posted Friday of this week, but will not be available until Monday due to the holiday. Pate expects that the new jobless rate in Wayne County will probably be approaching the state's 10 percent benchmark.

"I bet you we'll be well above 9 percent," he said.

In most years, seasonal employment hiring would cause a slight drop in unemployment numbers. However, last year was an exception, and this year might be heading the same way, Pate said.

"I don't think it's going to be that big of an impact this year either way, I really don't," he said.

The average holiday spending this year will be $682.74, down 3 percent from last year's total of $705.01, according to a consumer survey conducted by the National Retail Federation. The organization also predicts nation-wide holiday retail spending will decline by 1 percent this year, to $437.6 billion. In comparison, the 2008 holiday season saw sales decline by 3.4 percent.